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Worrilow Using MMA Training to Improve Tackling

As a gym rat who's driven to exceed expectations, Paul Worrilow knows it's important to always be improving. In an attempt to do so this offseason, the inside linebacker put himself through a unique training regimen: mixed martial arts wrestling.

"Finishing with the tackle, man, is about having a real strong wrap with the contact and the finish. That's why I've wrestled all offseason," Worrilow told "That was the whole purpose behind the sessions. When you're falling to the ground and trying to pull to get a guy down, you're not using your hips correctly and getting that leverage. That's something I've been able to work on."

Worrilow stumbled upon Straight Blast Gym in Buford, Ga., where lead instructor Phillipe Gentry authored a customized program for his 26-year-old client.

The plan involved working out twice a week and sparring with undefeated pro fighter Jared Gooden. Their training focused on techniques that can help Worrilow on the gridiron, such as takedowns and footwork drills.

"I'd go in there and we're working grappling and wrestling leverage," Worrilow said. "As close to tackling as you can get is wrestling and trying to take somebody down who doesn't want to be taken down … just like football."

Cutting down on missed tackles will be important for Atlanta next season. It will be especially important for Worrilow, who has new competition at MIKE linebacker and is slated to be a free agent in 2017.

If MMA fighting helps him become more consistent, it would go a long way toward getting the Falcons to the next level.

"This offseason, tackling has been the biggest thing for me," Worrilow said. "I don't think I've ever put so much emphasis on tackling in an offseason. … Tackling is going to go a long way for me. And I can already feel the changes in my game."

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